Bard Playwriting Students Respond to UPON THE FRAGILE SHORE
Upon the Fragile Shore was given as a reading assignment for November 19, 2014 in a Bard College Class, Introduction to Playwriting taught by noteworthy playwright Chiori Miyagawa.
The students read the manuscript and wrote below responses.
The recent play, Upon the Fragile Shore written by Caridad Svich deals with humanity and how humanity responds to tragedy. Svich is extremely brave, relentlessly drawing from both individual experiences all around the globe, and the overall experience of the human condition. The accurate and unique voices in this work are united by the recent horrors they have experienced. The characters, all unnamed, are addressed individually. Most scenes consist of monologues, sometimes hopping back and forth between a few key locations. Svich takes us through a series of recent, mostly man-made tragedies starting in post-Katrina Louisiana, then the violent 2014 Venezuelan political protests, and the merciless Aurora “Batman” shooting. The characters we meet affected by these events we jump around with. Back and forth until we reach the next, single-scene movement of the play, ‘the bridge.’ This is the only scene focusing on more than one character to lead the narrative. 76 days after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and loved ones are still reeling. Waiting on the drop of a dime. This scene is initially quite pessimistic, but when we return to as the last scene before the epilogue there is an air of hope.
The third movement starts in Damascus, Syria after a chemical attack and looks at the randomness of the violence in the world. In this example especially we feel the unequivocal hopelessness after the destruction, and the character’s desperation to escape the left over sediment of the event that tore their life apart followed by only temporary relief for them. We are then transported to the a bombing in Jos, Nigeria, a Dahkla refugee camp and eventually our last stop the one Bostonian’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing two years after the fact. All characters express a longing for an understanding and emotional acceptance from others, but humanity as a whole is incapable. Instead humanity makes way for this violent cycle to continue. Towards the end of the play we feel a desire to enact change. A bleak hope for the future through harsh and sometimes uncomfortable means, however whether these means are successful, we have yet to find out.
The fragmented writing style in Upon the Fragile Shore can complicate the message Svich is trying to send, for the writing in the play is beautiful and is too similar to reading prose or poetry. However, this would likely be entirely difference in a performance. The bleak outlook on the goodness of human nature, or lack thereof, and the state of the world, puts the everyday luxuries taken for granted into perspective.
It was really interesting and moving to read a play based on events that have happened so recently, and that I remember so vividly. I think it had a lot to say about the situation of our world and how, ultimately, it is only human actions that have been causing this misery and destruction. The epilogue, which spoke of new beginnings, is the thing to focus on if one is to view this play as an optimistic sentiment. It's a relief that the author thinks that we can have the opportunity to find a new beginning in the first place.
Upon the Fragile Shore was beautiful, eloquent and confusing to read. I'm sure it would've made much more sense had I witnessed it performed, especially regarding which voices spoke when. It was otherwise an incredible story. It painted an incredible picture in terms of perspective, tragedy and the different prerequisites of grief. It was beautiful how all these people wre linked through disaster- both natural and human -and how they all knew anecdotes, stories and comforting words to help them survive whatever they knew would have a somehwat negative ending regardless. Not to be cliche, but it was an incredible review of the human condition. And of course, it was a grave reminder that people still suffer daily, whether they're living in the wake of or are indeed the tragedy themselves. I liked the mentioning of CNN, as well as CNN in spanish. The theme of newscasting always fascinates me, for I know that countries (particularly ours) and their peoples are so heavily guided, or misguided, by the news. "If it's out of the news, it must've fixed itself" is a mentality we have to put to rest, and Upon the Fragile Shore understands that.
"Upon the Fragile Shore" is a surprisingly relevant play that deals with tragedy in the modern era. Some of these events held significance for me--the Aurora shooting being one of them, as I was also at a midnight screening of the Batman movie. My father and I returned home to find that people in Colorado did not make it home that night.
This play follows characters through their dealing with loss and grief--through many different years and locations. Haunting and sparse and a beautiful collaborative effort, it is both educational in its reports of tragic world events and emotional in its humanity.
"Upon the Fragile Shore" takes sensitive and...well, fragile moments in our world's history and paints a picture about modern society that is universal and yet so delicate. The setup is quite simple, and yet so much is said with so little. Entire countries, days, moments and fragments of existence are crafted simply from words. No set design or costumes can mimick what has been created here.
It is simply storytelling that makes this play work the way it does. You may find it provocative. You may find it tragic. You may find it comforting. Educational. Anger-inspiring. Entertaining. You will have some reaction to this play, good or bad, just as the characters in this play react to the events that have shaped their life.
Upon the shore by Caridad Svich is a poetic stream of thoughts. It is an artful composition that explores human rights and unnatural instances. It also delves into environmental issues around the world and is interconnected with seven stories. It is a conversation style play about tragedy, hopefulness, belief, confidence. It instilled in her readers, an ethical co-existence and brought out global scaled problems through a script. The script flows to such an extent where it brings out a fear and a ‘double checking’ phenomenon in such a way that we are resistant to any pressures laid on. “Fragile shore” is the edge on which all of us live on. Near death experiences are part of these well written interviews. These bring out a mental instability but with a climax of hope and how there are moments of strength in times of grief. I personally enjoyed the tone used. It was sombre and dingy but packed with power. Svich’s expertise is almost like a first hand experience that is brimming with expressive cross-culture affairs.
Upon The Fragile Shore gives me the vide of an apocalptic-type monotone voice just speaking the things that have happened in a past life. On top of that, there was a phrase which really resonated in me:
She taught me that phrase: Sotto voce.
Italian, is it?
What does it mean?
A low sound
This resonated really deeply in me because I grew up with my mother speaking Italian to me, and I remember whenever I used to say something a little too loud she used to whisper that into my ear and although I didn't know what it meant for a long time its point was very well presented just in the words themselves.
Another: Earth Speaks in Tongues. The quote brought to light a thought when I had when I was little. I would always think about a line based off of the "Most Interesting Man In the World" commercials. "He speaks English, in Spanish." It was such a bizarre concept to me but at the same time I knew it was a pointless cause to think about it. That line sums up that thought process for me in a very specific kind of unspoken way.
I have a history of great Sociology pioneers in my family. This interest has been passed down to me, it is how my brain thinks and as an contemporary artist its influence pushes me to write new characters for the status quo. The other side of socially changing consciousness is the retelling of stories. "Upon the Fragile Shore" took, in small increments, the lives’ and relationship’s and world's of contemporary tragedy facing the present world.
This play successfully pulls its reader into the lives of these individuals, into their values, and practices. Without overtly stating their whereabouts Caridad Svich brought us to the shores of Louisiana, the stone huts of the Sahara, the apartment above disaster, the streets of Boston. And using these settings, the people close to the tragedy, strung together the human existence of tragedy and the small morsels of happiness, truth, and roundedness that peak out occasionally behind the clouds of misfortune. Cumulating the voices in a glimmer of sunshine to the voices that trail happiness back to the re revelation of their current situation.
I greatly enjoyed the acknowledgement of the actors, because that is important in understanding no story is anyone but the people who live them and can truly speak on them. But through art and the tools Svich and these actors have, can give life to stories needing an audience.
A true look into empathy of the universal world of the human. Heart wrenching and wrought with a forced reflection of how lucky we are to be in the life's we lead away from the tragedies (not the tragedy of one's character flaws) but of power that has robbed these people and all the forces against them leave a stain of powerlessness.